|Guang Hua Liu, a 41-year-old single mother, ended up dismembered in various locations around the city. Now police are working to solve the mystery.
Toronto Police are working around the clock to find out why and how Guang Hua Liu, a 41-year-old single mother, ended up dismembered in various locations around the city.
At the same time another crop of investigators with criminal profiling expertise are using their special skills to the same end.
Mary Ellen O’Toole, a retired FBI agent who specializes in behavioral analysis and has worked on several high-profile cases, is one of those “criminal profilers”.
The real-life Clarice Starling said she has seen several dismemberment cases in her time and said the unique way the body was dealt with can hold important clue about the person who committed the crime.
“Dismemberment is not real common in homicide cases. Based on similar cases I’ve seen like this, somebody would dismember a human for only a few reasons,” O’Toole said in her soft voice with a friendly Virginia accent.
She points out an obvious point but one that has been very relevant in other cases she’s worked on.
“Cutting up a body makes it easier to transport. If the killer had to bring the body down in an apartment with stairs it would make it easier. Carrying a few smaller bags looks less suspicious than carrying one huge bag with a body in it,” she said, noting that in a large city like Toronto, a killer could be nervous about people taking note of something unusual like somebody lugging a body-sized bag.
O’Toole said that disposing of a body in pieces delays the recovery and identification process, allowing for more time to pass and perhaps weakening the link between the victim and the killer.
“Assuming the parts are dumped in different places, especially in water, there’s a good possibility not all of the body parts will be recovered, allowing for less evidence. Also, more time could pass until all the parts are found, allowing for more decomposition to occur which would wash away evidence and delay identification,” O’Toole said.
She said that it’s important that the killer could be trying to prevent identification of the victim, which could mean that the victim was someone he or she knew and didn’t want a link to be made.
O’Toole said she considers dismemberment very unique post-mortem behavior because of the huge amount of effort it takes. She said investigators will likely think that’s very significant because of the enormous amount of time and energy that it takes.
“It’s a long and gruesome process and someone would have had to have a location they could do this in, uninterrupted. It’s not a quick thing,” she said.
O’Toole said this could suggest the killing and dismemberment could have happened in an area that was in the killer’s comfort zone.
“It had to have happened somewhere where the killer had a certain amount of knowledge about the location. It likely happened somewhere that they thought, I can do this here and have every idea that won’t be interrupted,” she said, adding that if it happened in the spa Liu owned, or her home, it could mean the killer was someone she knew that was familiar with those places.
She also points out the gruesome fact that we’re assuming the victim was dismembered post-mortem. Medical examiners will be able to determine whether the dismemberment happened while Liu was already dead or still alive by looking at many factors such as the amount of hemorrhaging that happened and the wounds on the body.
“If they learn she was alive when this happened, that’s a whole new ball game. That’s a total different psychological profile of the killer,” she said.
O’Toole said investigators will likely be studying Liu’s victimology, meaning they’d be looking at all the factors that could have made her a victim of crime. She said from a profiling point of view, the investigator doing the assessment will likely look at the risk level of the victim, through categories of high risk or low risk,
“In the FBI we see someone as low risk if the person has a lifestyle that is not involved in any activities, hobbies, or employment that would expose them to danger,” she said, explaining high risk is the opposite and evaluating risk gives an idea of the number of people that could victimize the person.
O’Toole said the fact that Liu was working at a rub and tug massage parlour could have put her in contact with people who were involved with high risk behavior, heightening her own risk of danger.
She said that nothing can be ruled out early in an investigation and believes the answers will come as time goes by.
“As the victimology deepens in the case, more information will come out. Only time will tell,” she said.